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REPORT: Darwin Nunez can't make Liverpool £33m transfer mistake as Brendan Rodgers flop reaches new low - CoolBaze.com

REPORT: Darwin Nunez can’t make Liverpool £33m transfer mistake as Brendan Rodgers flop reaches new low

One of Julian Ward’s first tasks when replacing Michael Edwards as Liverpool sporting director has been to refresh the Reds’ front-line. Considering Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all the wrong side of 30 and out of contract in 2023, it’s easy to see why that has been a priority for Anfield bosses.

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Mane made Liverpool’s job easier for them by departing in a potential £35m transfer to Bayern Munich, but it remains to be seen what the Reds will do with the Egyptian and Brazilian as they enter the final year of their contracts. Regardless of whether they agree new terms or not, with Divock Origi also exiting and Takumi Minamino set to follow, it’s clear that Ward has started to implement the club’s plan for life beyond their once untouchable front three.

He had already started to put together Liverpool ’s new-look attack for 2022/23 back in January, truth be told, after signing Luis Diaz six months earlier than originally planned, before agreeing a deal with Fulham for Fabio Carvalho after running out of time to conclude a mid-season deal on transfer deadline day. Meanwhile, Mane’s desire to leave the club saw the Reds bring in Darwin Nunez from Benfica in a deal that could potentially be worth a club-record £85m.

When entering negotiations with the Portuguese outfit, Liverpool were aware that the deal would not be easy to conclude and warned that they had no intentions of being caught in a bidding war or paying over the odds for the Uruguayan. And while an initial £64.1m fee with a possible £21.3m in add-ons, it took some time for the Reds and Benfica to agree all the terms on the deal to suit all parties.

Such a fact should have come as no surprise to Liverpool, truth be told. They have been stung when negotiating with the Eagles twice before, after all.

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The first time came in 2005 when, having won the Champions League the previous May, the Reds were in negotiations to complete a transfer deadline day swoop for Simao Sabrosa. A £10m fee was even agreed with Benfica as the Portugal international was given permission to fly to England for a medical, only for the Portuguese outfit’s club president, Jorge Baidek, to up the asking price to £13.6m. With Liverpool only willing to pay a maximum £12.3m, he then cancelled the deal in fear of supporter backlash at the eleventh hour, having run out of time to sign a replacement for his captain and talisman.

“The decision is exclusively Benfica’s. An offer from the European champions is enormous for any player,” Simao rued at the time, while he opened up on the failed transfer a number of times in recent years.

“At that time I’m in the national team, three or four days until the end [of the window],” Simao told Liverpoolfc.com earlier this year after the two sides were drawn against each other in the Champions League. “I received a call at like five o’clock in the morning, ‘you need to come, we go to Liverpool’.

“I go to [Luiz Felipe] Scolari and the director of the national team to give me permission to go out. When I go to the office of my agent, in that moment the president of Benfica called and said, ‘we don’t have a deal, you don’t have permission to fly, so you need to stay’.

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“It’s strange because I thought it was done. But when the president went home, he called again and said, ‘it’s impossible to fly to Liverpool and get a new contract with Liverpool, so you need to stay. Because if you sign for Liverpool, Benfica fans will be angry [with me]’. At that time I said, ‘okay, I stay’.

“The office of my agent is near the airport and the agent gave me some impression, ‘let’s go to the airport. When we arrive in Liverpool, maybe the president says yes’. I said, ‘no, it’s impossible to take the plane and fly to Liverpool’. I was representing the national team and if I take this decision, I have a lot of problems with the national team, my club, so I decided to stay.”

And Liverpool CEO Rick Parry would reveal that Simao had been waiting at the airport to fly to England for his medical when the deal ultimately fell through.

“We had an agreement with Benfica but when the story leaked there was such a strong reaction they felt they couldn’t sell,” Parry said at the time. “Simao was sitting on a plane waiting to come for his medical, but Benfica called it off.

“In a way, it was similar to the Steven Gerrard situation here when Chelsea were interested. It was disappointing but there is nothing we could do. Had the deal broken down on 30th June, perhaps there wouldn’t be such doom and gloom because you know there’s time to find someone else. That’s not the case on deadline day.”

The following February, Simao would come back to hurt Liverpool as he scored at Anfield to end the Reds’ Champions League defence at the round-of-16 stage in March 2006. Yet their failure to land Simao won’t be the dealing with Benfica that club bosses rue most, with the successful signing of a winger eight years later arguably a more disappointing Anfield transfer.

Prior to Nunez, Liverpool had signed just one other player directly from Benfica – Lazar Markovic. The highly-rated Serbian was just 20 when he joined the Reds in a £20m deal, having only signed for the Portuguese outfit from Partizan Belgrade 12 months earlier.

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He would score seven goals from 49 appearances for the Eagles in his solitary season in Lisbon, helping the club win a domestic treble of Premeira Liga, Taca de Portugal and Taca da Liga, while also reaching the Europa League final. Having also impressed in Serbia with Partizan, his former manager Avram Grant labelled him with the highest of praise after his move to Anfield.

“I can say that apart from Ronaldo and Messi, Markovic is one of the best talents I’ve ever seen at 19 years of age,” Grant lauded. “It was excellent playing with this kid for six months. He has such massive potential that if he changed his attitude in training he could be one of Europe’s best players in his position. But he’s young, he’ll mature, and then nobody will be able to stop him.”

 

Unfortunately for Liverpool, Markovic would never live up to such praise as he ultimately became one of their worst-ever Premier League signings. As good as Grant rated the 19-year-old, it appears his attitude in training remained a problem following his switch to Anfield, with Markovic maturing to live up to his former manager’s expectations.

Limited to 34 appearances in all competitions in a disappointing year for the Reds under Brendan Rodgers, he would start 23 games and feature just 19 times in the Premier League as he struggled to live up to expectations. Particular lowlights included being sent off against Basel only 15 minutes after coming on as Liverpool suffered a Champions League group-stage exit and being withdrawn at half-time at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa as his manager tried to play the winger as a right wing-back.

“I didn’t have a good relationship with the coach,” Markovic would later admit to Portuguese newspaper A Bola. “That was a problem. I played in many positions but didn’t play in mine.”

Finishing the season with late substitute appearances against Hull City and Queens Park Rangers, Markovic was an unused substitute as Liverpool embarrassingly ended the campaign with a 6-1 loss away at Stoke City and, despite a new manager soon arriving in Jurgen Klopp, he never played a competitive game for the club again.

Underwhelming loan spells followed as Markovic spent the 2015/16 campaign with Fenerbahce before seeing a season-long switch to Sporting Lisbon cut short midway through the 2016/17 season, going on to suffer relegation with Hull City. With clubs unwilling to meet the Reds’ asking price as they looked to sell the Serbian permanently, he then spent the second half of the 2017/18 season with Anderlecht, only for his fitness and condition to be so poor upon his arrival in Brussels that it would take him six weeks to get up to stand. He played just eight times before returning to Anfield as a result, although he took aim at his parent club while away for pricing him out of a permanent exit.

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“It’s to show that I’m still the same player, to show the people at Liverpool that they can’t treat me that way,” he fumed after scoring his only goal for Anderlecht. “Yes, it’s okay to take it personally when you are not let go because they’re asking for an unrealistic transfer amount.”

Featuring for Liverpool in pre-season 2018, even scoring against Blackburn Rovers, he remained frozen out the following campaign before signing for Fulham on a free transfer on January transfer deadline day in 2019 after being recommended by compatriot Aleksandar Mitrovic. Yet he would make just one appearance for the Cottagers, who suffered relegation that year, coming on as a half-time substitute against West Ham United in February before being released at the end of that season while his former Reds team-mates lifted the Champions League.

He would re-sign for Partizan Belgrade in September 2019 and ultimately impressed back with his first club, scoring 21 goals in 89 appearances after signing a three-year contract. However, new head coach Ilija Stolica ultimately deemed the now 28-year-old surplus to requirements following his appointment earlier this month. As a result, Markovic was one of eight players released by the club.

 

Eight years on from his £20m move from Benfica to Liverpool, Markovic is a free agent after being turned away by his boyhood club. With the Reds having struggled for years to find a new home for the winger, it remains to be seen how long he will stay out of contract for.

And now, eight years on from that doomed transfer, Liverpool have signed from Benfica again by snapping up Nunez following impressive displays in Portugal. Celebrating his 23rd birthday today, his arrival has helped revamp the Reds’ ageing attack at least, with the Uruguayan set to be tasked with becoming Klopp’s leading striker as the soft launch of his side’s next generation continues.

 

Having seen the triumvirate of Mane, Salah and Firmino score 374 goals between them since the latter first moved to Anfield in the summer of 2015, Nunez certainly has big boots to follow, with the success of his £85m transfer set to define what comes next for Liverpool beyond their famous three.

And while it remains to be seen if he can replicate the form that saw him score 48 goals from 85 appearances during two seasons in Portugal, including two against Klopp’s Reds, Liverpool will, at the very least, be hoping it’s third time lucky when it comes to them knocking at Benfica’s door after previous negotiations really did not go to plan.

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